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eBooks Nearly Outsell Print Books At Amazon 154

Posted by Soulskill
from the if-only-we-could-operate-books-using-oil dept.
destinyland writes "Thursday Amazon.com announced that they're selling more ebooks than paperback books — and three times as many ebooks as hardcovers. If you combine their statistics into a pie chart, it shows that 45% of all the books Amazon sells are now ebooks. And Amazon's statistic doesn't include all the free ebooks people are downloading to their Kindles, so if just one user downloads a free ebook for every nine paid ebook purchases — then Amazon is already delivering more digital ebooks than they are print editions." Another reader tips an interview with Brian Altounian, CEO of ebook marketplace WOWIO, in which he discusses an encroaching feature that ebook aficionados love to hate: ads.
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eBooks Nearly Outsell Print Books At Amazon

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  • by intellitech (1912116) * on Friday January 28, 2011 @07:35PM (#35039354)
    This is same phenomenon that has made millionaires out of many a mobile app writer. Cheaper prices per item can lead to exponentially increased sales, which leads to more market visibility, which leads to more sales, and so on and so forth. This shouldn't surprise anyone, considering the popularity of the Kindle and the costs of physical books.
    • I believe your analogy is wrong. ebook prices are not as low as you make them to be. Used books are in fact cheaper than kindle versions (libraries are full of used books too, that doesn't seem to bother anyone). Go to Amazon and compare a few books. e.g., Change We Can Believe In: Kindle: 8.09, Paperback: 8.49, Used: 3.68. But you don't have to pay shipping and you don't have to wait, it is very convenient. Combined with the curiosity factor, no wonder it ebooks caught up so fast.

      This is an expected tra
      • by geekoid (135745)

        OTOH, my wife can get 100's of romance for free.
        It varies from book to book.

        For example, Jim Butchers publishers are forcing the Dresdan books to be 10 bucks for the kindle version.
          That more expensive then the paperback. They are hurting the author and themselves.

        Then their are other books I can get for 4.99. The industry hasn't settled down.

      • by nomadic (141991)
        Besides the portability factor, I also like the fact that if I buy something on the kindle, I can access it from multiple devices, and if I lose the kindle I can just re-download everything.
      • by morari (1080535)

        Hell, most new hardback books are cheaper than their ebook equivalents. It's utterly ridiculous, given the minimal amount of resources involved in producing an ebook. I own a Nook and am very happy with it. I've yet to be disappointed in the ebook prices from any of the major distributors however. It's a good thing that there are plenty of freely available public domain books out there to read through. My library selection in Calibre will keep me reading for a few years at least. ;)

        • One thing to keep in mind: there aren't minimal resources required, because most of the cost of publishing a book isn't the physical manufacturing/shipping/etc; it's edition, author advances, advertising, and other processes that wouldn't disappear even if the book was exclusively digital. Granted, most books aren't - which means that these costs are spread across both physical and e-Book sales, not that e-Book copies somehow cost nothing to make. Additionally, depending on the publication process and eBo

          • Hell, most new hardback books are cheaper than their ebook equivalents. It's utterly ridiculous, given the minimal amount of resources involved in producing an ebook.

            One thing to keep in mind: there aren't minimal resources required, because most of the cost of publishing a book isn't the physical manufacturing/shipping/etc; it's edition, author advances, advertising, and other processes that wouldn't disappear even if the book was exclusively digital.

            I think he was talking about the resources to make anot

            • I think he was talking about the resources to make another copy of the book. Hardback book: page printing, cutting, binding, cover, shipping. Ebook: sending a few megabits of data.

              Maybe, but I don't think it's clear which he's referring to. When I think "producing an eBook," I don't think "just the physical part of the chain." If so, though, my objection is pretty much withdrawn.

              And replaced, unfortunately - printing more copies of a physical book that's already published can be a MUCH cheaper process th

          • by narcc (412956)

            That being said, eBook prices are still unreasonable, and they ARE competing with a lot of compelling free material.

            And yet they're selling remarkably well. It seems the market has decided that the convenience is worth both the cost of the initial investment and the regular "print" cost for the books.

            I would guess, given the numbers, that a sizable portion of the book market doesn't care about owning a physical book; they're more interested in just reading the text.

            It's also possible that a large number of readers find the physical book 'inconvenient' after they've read it -- if they don't want to just toss it in the bi

            • They are selling remarkably well to hardcore book enthusiasts - eBook owners are still a minority. My hope is that when readers hit $80 and books hit $6 or so, we'll actually see them as a driver of mainstream adoption.

              Also, tons of people read out of copyright stuff - Austen, Shakespeare, etc, are really, really popular. They don't tend to make up the entirety of most people's reading material, but it's not an uncompelling set of books - and as copyright creeps over the mid 1900s, it's just going to get

              • If anything, e-books outselling paper backs at the world's biggest book seller shows that they are now mainstream.

                I buy perhaps too many e-books from Amazon. But even then, the "send sample" feature has allowed me to stop buying books by impulse. Now I always ask for samples. Always. When I finish the sample, I buy the book.

                For me the biggest drawback at Amazon is the lack of non English books.

                • A shift in Amazon's selling patterns, by itself, shows that e-Books are now mainstream? I disagree, for two main reasons. One, Amazon is already an online retailer, and the main draws of online purchasing (immediacy of purchase, not having to go anywhere, etc) apply to e-Books, often more-so. Two, book-buying is an enthusiast-driven market - so high volume shifts in purchasing can come out of small population segments. The sample thing is really useful, and the lack of non-English books is a problem - n
    • by mattmarlowe (694498) on Friday January 28, 2011 @08:51PM (#35039884) Homepage

      Unfortunately, amazon caved into the demands of the large publishers and is now allowing publishers to set prices. Naturally, the publishers have started to test having ebook prices of popular new releases actually be $1-2 higher than the equivalent hardcover and after the release has been out awhile reduce the ebook price to be just the same as paperback. So, in effect we move from the situation a year ago where kindle readers were receiving a discount on books and publishers could complain that the future of publishing was in peril - we now have a situation where kindle readers are being pushed as an extra money maker - kindle readers are paying a premium for fast access to books above and beyond the cost of the kindle itself. Somewhat of an interesting situation where if a kindle owner has an amazon prime account, he is actually paying amazon extra not to kill a tree and burn additional energy to send him the physical copy.

      • by mattack2 (1165421)

        I think it's unfortunate that they're starting out more than hardcover books, but before, were ebooks dropping in price at all?

        Just like with video games (wait for Greatest Hits editions, general price lowering, or buying on eBay), movies (wait for netflix), generally I don't care that I 'had' to wait since there was plenty of other media to consume in the meantime. (The only exceptions to 'generally' I can think of are a few books I specifically buy hardcover, and those are sometimes remaindered books.)

      • So...they're paying a lot more for a product that doesn't "kill trees", as you put it? Got news for ya buddy, there is an entire world out there called "green products" wherein people are accustomed to doing precisely this. No surprise that the situation is evolving in this direction.
      • Whose deals caused prices to jump. Amazon was left with allowing Apple access to books they would not have or going along with it.

        http://www.fictionmatters.com/2010/02/01/amazon-flanks-the-first-battle-of-the-ebook-wars/ [fictionmatters.com]

        Is one story, but as you read others it becomes more clear. Amazon was more than happy with its 9.99 structure but publishers were looking at the iPad cash cow and Apple was willing to cut them better deals. So Amazon moved first and yes prices went up but it secured them the numbers and

      • by Garwulf (708651)

        Actually, that's what Amazon wants you to believe about it. The reality was somewhat different.

        The thing you have to understand is that for a major publisher, the actual production cost of a book is a very minor cost. Most of the cost of getting that book ready is editing, typesetting (even for an e-book), cover design (also even for an e-book) and marketing. And, e-books represent around 10% of trade fiction sales, give or take, so they bring in less money overall.

        What Amazon was doing was trying to for

    • by Phoghat (1288088)
      When the Kindle first came out it was too expensive to warrant me buying one. Now that the Kindle 6" WiFi is available at a price point affordable to me at $139, it made sense. There are always lots of free and low cost books on Amazon, and there are many sites on the webs that have free Kindle content

      . It's not all unknown authors too. Sometimes an author will plan a trilogy and make the first volume available free so that he will interest you in buying the other volumes. Sometimes a publisher Baen Free [baen.com]

  • I will accept ads (Score:3, Insightful)

    by denshao2 (1515775) on Friday January 28, 2011 @07:38PM (#35039376) Homepage Journal
    if the books are free.
    • by Obyron (615547) on Friday January 28, 2011 @07:57PM (#35039492)
      And I'll never buy another eBook the first time I see an ad in one. We balance out. Books are about immersion, and having ads will ruin it for me.
      • by InlawBiker (1124825) on Friday January 28, 2011 @09:43PM (#35040196)

        The answer is of course, product placement in-line with the text. They could do this pretty easily on the back end of many books automatically.

        "... all the subtle demonisms of life and thought; all evil, to crazy Ahab, were visibly personified, and made practically assailable in Moby Dick. He piled upon the whale’s white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down; and then, as he opened forth his Pepsi-Cola, he burst his hot heart’s shell upon it."

      • by macshit (157376) <miles@@@gnu...org> on Friday January 28, 2011 @10:16PM (#35040372) Homepage

        And I'll never buy another eBook the first time I see an ad in one. We balance out. Books are about immersion, and having ads will ruin it for me.

        It seems like it depends critically on the presentation and content of the ads.

        Many (physical) paperbacks I buy have little fall-out inserts advertising other releases by the same publisher, book clubs, etc. I don't mind these -- I glance them, sometimes read them, usually toss them out (though the mini-catalogues of other books are actually useful enough to keep in some cases). They're easily ignored, not in my face, often informative, and topical.

        Ebook adverts with these same properties wouldn't be too objectionable I think.

        OTOH, I imagine the likelihood of ebook publishers not screwing it up is very low -- there's this weird idea amongst publishing entities (not just books but movies, music, etc) that any change of medium means that all the rules change, that any and all conventions and lessons learned from the old medium should be tossed out, and that the new medium is carte blanche to viciously ream the consumer while bleeding him dry.

        One would hope that consumers (and regulators, where appropriate) would disabuse publishers of this notion...

      • by Draek (916851)

        You'd be surprised at how much it takes to break you out of inmersion. Try reading a short story online sometime, 99% of them have ads left and right but one is easily able to follow the narrative without ever taking a second look at them.

        Kinda like the rest of the web, actually.

    • I rather pay and not have my book turned into TV.
  • Keep in mind (Score:5, Insightful)

    by c0d3g33k (102699) on Friday January 28, 2011 @07:49PM (#35039436)

    That Amazon does not represent the entire book market - they sell to a subset of customers that don't mind getting their books online. The fact that a significant portion of those customers are equally happy with ebooks isn't exactly a revelation. There are still a lot of people out there who prefer to buy real books, whether or not the big bookstores are catering to them.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by geekoid (135745)

      um, Amazon caters to all story lovers, whether it's print or electronic. It sells a huge base of books in a wide swath if genres.

      Like it or not, it's a strong market indicator

      Yes, there will always be book lovers. People who think the value in reading is the number books on their shelves.

      I pity them.

      • by Microlith (54737)

        Well, when Amazon decides to delete a book you aren't supposed to have, the people with the physical copy will still have it.

        They've done it before, I have no doubt they'll do it again at some point.

        • Well, when Amazon decides to delete a book you aren't supposed to have, the people with the physical copy will still have it.

          They've done it before, I have no doubt they'll do it again at some point.

          Unless you have stolen the book, there is no such thing as "a book you aren't supposed to have".

    • by alen (225700)

      is that why i see tons of kindles everywhere i go?

      • by geekoid (135745)

        They should purchase the newest version of the kindle, it's lighter.

    • by icebike (68054)

      There are still a lot of people out there who prefer to buy real books, whether or not the big bookstores are catering to them.

      But you have totally hand waived the story away!?!

      Similar results are shown by Barnes and Noble [itworld.com], which actually has more titles than Amazon.

      Ebooks are already nearly outselling Dead Tree Books, and the trend is only getting started. Ereader penetration is far from being mainstream. Yet the most avid readers seem to be adopting the devices at an astounding rate.

      Borders and Books-a-Million have also added eReaders. Its not a trend you can dismiss lightly. Just as the family photos have disappeared from the

    • by rm999 (775449)

      Not to mention that they are the primary source for Kindle books. My mom gave my dad a kindle last year, so he started using Amazon to buy all his e-books instead of getting print books from the local Barnes & Noble.

    • by tixxit (1107127)
      Actually, I recently bought a Kindle, but up to now have purchased most books at bookstores (excluding textbooks & obscure stuff). I've been planning on switching to an eReader for a while, but was waiting for the price to drop (which it finally has). Anyways, eBooks are real books. The book is the content, not the delivery mechanism. You lose some things (loaning the book out), but gain quite a bit (try reading a novel w/ thick gloves on while waiting for a train in the freezing cold).
      • I have a NOOKcolor (and had a wifi Nook before that). Like you, I waited until the prices dropped a bit on the readers before I purchased one. I sold my wifi Nook when I got my NOOKcolor. eBooks are great for a lot of genres, but I still buy a hardcopy book from time to time. I prefer hardcopy cookbooks and I prefer getting magazines in electronic format.

        Sure, you can not really loan an ebook, however, I rarely ever loaned any of my hardcopy books, so that's not a big loss for me (many of my friends are

    • by Garwulf (708651)

      Amazon is problematic, in fact, because among other things, they don't release their actual sales figures. This means that their claims are very difficult, if not impossible to verify. According to the trade book publishers themselves, as of October 2010, e-book sales represented 8.7% of their net for 2010 (up from 3.31% in 2009 - the full figures for 2010 aren't out yet, though).

      As far as what is going on in the actual e-book market vs. the print book market, it is important to note that while the produc

  • ...but when they finally ship all those backordered copies of Knuth's 4th volume, ebooks may never recover. Wait, is TAoCP available on e-book? Hang on, brb...
  • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Friday January 28, 2011 @07:58PM (#35039502)

    Putting ads in ebooks would totally kill my interest in buying ebooks - and I'm a Kindle owner. If they start putting ads in there, I will sell my Kindle on eBay. I suspect inserting ads would kill the nascent ebook market.

    It's not like eBooks are a new product - they're just a repackaged offering of a product that's been sold for years and years. I've got lots of paper books, and they don't contain ads... with the exception of occasionally hawking another title by the same author.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      If the books I want to read for free, and the included a small ad at the beginning of every chapter, I wouldn't mind.

      Hell, it could be an ad holder page that gets update with adds every 6 months.

      • by RockDoctor (15477)

        If the books I want to read for free, and the included a small ad at the beginning of every chapter, I wouldn't mind.

        Hmmm, PTerry (one of the biggest individual sellers in the English language market for the last couple of decades) would be most unpopular. Most (not all, but most) of his books more-or-less completely eschew the "chapter" paradigm.

        Hell, it could be an ad holder page that gets update with adds every 6 months.

        Now, just what makes you think that an e-book reader would have a wireless connectio

  • In the days of Kenneth Starr [wikimedia.org] and the Monika Lewinski "The Skank Kept The Nasty Dress" Investigation, people were livid and up-in-arms when Lewinsky's book-purchasing records were sought [wikimedia.org].

    Now all you need to do is give Amazon a few pennies and call yourself an "advertiser".

    How times have changed.

  • The money spent on ebooks should be donated to libraries to buy those exact same ebooks. The books could then be shared.

    It is a tragedy that this is not happening.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      yes, because both those things can't happen together~

      Sheesh.

    • by icebike (68054)

      The money spent on ebooks should be donated to libraries to buy those exact same ebooks. The books could then be shared.

      It is a tragedy that this is not happening.

      What possible justification could there be for depriving an author of their money in order to donate to libraries? Even fewer sales over all because you insist they stock the libraries with their sales revenue?

    • If I can borrow a book for free from a library, why would I buy it?

      If nobody buys the books, what is the incentive for someone to write one?

      • by Dan Ost (415913)

        Most books that I buy are purchased after I've already finished reading the book.

        I buy books that I've decided that I want to have handy as references or that I want to be able to loan out to friends and family.

        So based on my own habits and the fact that most avid book buyers I know have similar habits, I would expect that having a book in a library would do much to increase the sales of that book.

    • This is hardly a tragedy. Considering how many books range from cheap to free on the Kindle, it makes libraries redundant.

      Close the libraries and use the money to subsidize the purchase of readers for a town's residents and school children. The next itteration of basic eBooks will most likely drop below $100. Once that happens print sales will be decimated.

    • So, how does this argument not apply to paper books? In fact, it's actually a better argument for paper books, because most libraries have long practice in being very convenient to borrow paper books from, whereas most eBook lending programs aren't very convenient at all; usually they're so rights-encumbered that they give up most of the advantages of being digital copies.

      I'm a grad student for Library and Information Science, in my last semester. While it's great when people contribute to libraries, it's

  • by mauddib~ (126018) on Friday January 28, 2011 @08:38PM (#35039798) Homepage

    Interesting, it seems that nowadays we suddenly first have to put numbers into a pie chart, before we can see what percentage it has. This seems like primary school knowledge to me.

  • Amazon is quick to talk up exactly how many ebooks it has sold, but the company won't disclose how many Kindles it has sold [itworld.com] (it just says 'millions'). Ryan Faas thinks that 'one reason that Amazon may be enjoying this level of success and yet be unwilling to disclose how many actual devices it has sold is that many of those ebook sales may not be tied to actual Kindle devices.' By making the Kindle a platform that can be run on just about anything, Amazon has positioned itself to rake in ebook sales even if it can't move Kindle hardware in vast quantities, says Faas.
    • But wasn't Kindle always just a vehicle to drive more book sales? It seems to be the strategy for both Amazon and B&N so far. That's why they're priced lower than other readers.

  • by Fantastic Lad (198284) on Friday January 28, 2011 @09:55PM (#35040242)

    Is this real?

    A manipulation from Amazon would be nothing new, and this one costs them nothing and has the potential to create a profitable trend. Those Jonses and their Kindles.

    But whatever. Let's take it at face value. . .

    All those people who got an iPad thingy for Christmas are eager to try it out and never ever get bored with their cool new Buzz Lightyear.

    So yeah, they're going to buy media, because that's the whole premise of the device. You don't get a Buzz Lightyear and *not* click his wings open a bunch of times.

    And the same way everybody had to replace their album collections with CDs, there is a market spike as new media is adopted.

    The question is. . . Will it stick, or is this just another digital watch?

    Well, let's consider. . , all those iPads were bought at around the same time. But their batteries will wear out according to usage, and when your digital book stops holding a charge for long enough. . , do you replace it? Was the experience good enough for you? Can you port all your purchased 'books' over to a new reader easily? Do you have to stay brand-loyal just to read your stuff? Will there be law-suits forcing personal library porting because Apple is the new anti-competitive demon? Will people even care? (Do you still have all the same crap you downloaded from Napster or have you moved on, secure in the knowledge that all that old music is basically free any time you want it? Or are you willing to pay a buck to play it on your iPod?)

    Will owning an eReader of some sort be like owning a car? Or a phone? Considered a basic necessity just so you can access your stuff?

    Maybe.

    I think eReaders are probably here to stay, and they will probably be a viable income source for publishers, but I wouldn't let all that limelight blind you. Paper ain't going away. It's just going to have to share.

    Remember: Theater never died. There's a half dozen full stages within a ten minute walk from my place, and they're all booked regularly.

    -FL

  • by seifried (12921) on Friday January 28, 2011 @10:16PM (#35040370) Homepage

    You are licensing the eBook. Not buying it.

    Amazon recalls (and embodies) Orwell's '1984' [cnet.com]

    • by ErikZ (55491) *

      What kind of licence gives you your money back after you're done with it?

    • You are licensing the eBook. Not buying it.

      What you say is true, and still many people (including me) are only buying e-books.

      There is more to e-books & paper books, than the licensing difference. The impression I get at slashdot is that most people bashing e-books have never used an e-book, or are not old enough to understand the 'costs' associated with a large library.

      I can only speak for myself but:

      • For starters, the lack of physical space in my house for even more books had -for a number of years- made me buy less books than what I would oth
  • ... is someone coming out of a restroom stall with a kindle or an iPad. Over the decades, I've seen plenty of people taking hard copies of books to the toilet.

    • Nice thing about eBooks is they are not tied to a single device. I start one on my tablet, read a bit more on my PC, and some more on my iPhone. My spot in the book is always up to date, I can pull it up on any device I want and continue right where I left off.

      So not "Seeing" the Kindle or iPad coming out of a restroom stall, doesn't mean they weren't reading an eBook in there.

  • The WOWIO interview left me with a lot of questions, and those weren't cleared up by the very brief info [wowio.com] on wowio's web site. As far as I can tell, they sell DRM-free books with ads in them, give 100% of the purchase price to the author, and keep 100% of the ad revenue for themselves. What I don't quite understand about this is what's stopping someone from writing software that simply strips the ads out of a WOWIO book. There's also the question of what WOWIO sees as the service they provide to authors and/

  • E-Calibre? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by willynate (804952) on Saturday January 29, 2011 @07:41AM (#35041890)
    I'm just curious why no one has mentioned e-calibre (http://calibre-ebook.com/) as a great tool for essentially removing the DRM from Amazon books. Just suck your .amz or .mobi books off your Kindle and convert them to .epub and back. A buddy and me have permenantly "loaned" each other copies of several books we bought off Amazon in this manner.
  • I just can't get past how tremendously short-sighted it is to buy an eBook at current rates.

    I have (and often reread - Larry Niven and RAH titles most recently) hundreds of books that I bought more than 30 years ago, dozens bought by my parents 50 years ago, and a few that my grandparents passed down from before that - does anybody think that Amazon DRM will still be maintained in even 20 years? How's that Plays-For-Sure working for you?

    So I would probably buy eBooks for "rental" type fees, but no more
    • I just can't get past how tremendously short-sighted it is to buy an eBook at current rates. does anybody think that Amazon DRM will still be maintained in even 20 years? (And stripping the DRM doesn't count, since nobody around here does anything that's illegal!)

      It may be illegal in US, but not elsewhere. And even in US it's one of those "illegal but who cares?" kinds of things. But it kills your short-sightedness argument right on the spot.

      Oh, and you do realize that Amazon isn't the only one selling ebooks, right? And that you can buy them without DRM elsewhere?

    • by slim (1652)

      I just can't get past how tremendously short-sighted it is to buy an eBook at current rates.

      It depends on your reading style.

      Some people buy a novel, read it, then give it to a charity shop. For them, only the last step is lost -- now certainly that warm and fuzzy feeling counts for someone, and the life of the book after donation is significant in the wider scheme of things, but for the original buyer it's not a hugely degraded experience, which might be compensated by the convenience of reading on an ebook platform.

      Or, there's technical titles -- O'Reilly books and the like -- which are obsolet

  • "...so if just one user downloads a free ebook for every nine paid ebook purchases — then Amazon is already delivering more digital ebooks than they are print editions."

    That one user must be downloading a huge number of free ebooks.

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